My Thoughts and Reading in January 2018
When midnight came around to usher in 2018 my first instinct (after celebrating with my wife) was to start reading. I had decided to go into the New Year with no reading goals and no long term plans except to enjoy my reading journey. I love the feeling you get at the beginning of the year where you are ready to achieve but I often find that feeling fades far too quickly. I wanted to see what it would be like to just read and have no reading goals, but here I am celebrating with friends and I just want to be reading.
I went into the year with two books on the go, The Devotion of Suspect X and Suburra. I know many people that will abandon the books and start fresh at the beginning of the year, but I am terrible at abandoning, especially if I am enjoying the books. The whole idea seems nice, in theory. Being distracted by other books is a constant struggle, especially at the beginning of the year.
I was given two books to read for book club over the Christmas break. We were unable to decide which to read and since we do not return till February, we had the time. One of the picks was Lincoln in the Bardo. I was excited for George Saunders’ first novel but since the release I think my interest in reading it died significantly. All the hype around the novel put me off reading it for a long time, but I was still curious. I enjoyed Tenth of December, so I wanted to dip into his writing further.
I ended up getting the audio book and had a wonderful time. The cast of a hundred narrators really worked for Lincoln in the Bardo. I did worry that it would end up being too much of a gimmick, Saunders managed to work with the unique style without going overboard. In the end, the conflict Lincoln had between grieving his son and knowingly sending sons, brothers and fathers to die in a civil war was what stood out. I will be interested to see where Saunders goes from here but I personally prefer his short stories; if I am only judging him based on Lincoln in the Bardo and Tenth of December.
The other book club book was Extinctions, which won the Miles Franklin award. So we ended up reading the Man Booker prize and the Miles Franklin, which is an Australian literary award. I started going to book club in 2012 as a way to push myself. For someone that is so introverted I am often surprised that the steps I take to interact with other people. In the five years attending book club I have been the only male to frequently attend and I tend to hate everything the club loves. If only I could learn to articulate my words better, we could have much better discussions. Then again, I go to practise. If it was not for the book club I may have never read books like The Dinner, Tigers in Red Weather, The Yellow Birds or Sweetland.
It is interesting to see how much the world around me influences my reading, my book club has pushed me to read many books I might not think to pick up but it is hard to say if I would discover them another way. I tend to spend a lot of time on social media with bookish people, from Twitter to GoodReads, from YouTube to blogs. Reading does not have to be a solitary act anymore and I love how easy it is to find people to discuss books with. We may all get distracted by literary prizes and the next over-hyped books but it is the people constantly discussing books that influence me the most.
These are the people that inspired me to try BookTube, another way to push myself and practise articulating my thoughts on what I have been reading. However, I prefer to consider myself a writer or blogger and my major goal for the year is to get back into the habit. I use to review every book I read and while this no longer seems practical, I want to write more. Between my blog and The Literati, my goal is more content; not necessarily reviews, rather I would like to focus on the personal essay. When I was a teenager I thought about writing fiction and all attempts to try my hand in this medium have been laughable. Although I have been with a story idea lately and while I have done my best to actively ignore it, I am yet to get it out of my head. I hold literature to a high standard and there is no way that I would be able to achieve that myself. I have written the idea down and if it continues to plague me then maybe I will not have a choice. I am not ready to try my hand at fiction, I still need to improve my craft.
The idea was sparked by reading Hecate and Her Dogs, but not related to the story. Paul Morand wrote such a beautiful and disturbing novella but I have a hard time separating the man from the book. It is the type of prose that you want to write down and admire. He was modernist writer along with his friend Proust and is considered a cult favourite among the artistic avant-garde. Sadly he was also a vocal anti-Semite and a Nazi collaborator. A question that has been asked a lot lately with people speaking out against sexual assault; how can we love the art, when the artist is such an asshole? It has become difficult to pick a movie nowadays. I do not want to forgive Paul Morand for his inhumane thoughts, nor call him a product of his time but I struggle to find where to draw the line. Ideally I never want to support people with problematic views but if I did this, I would quickly run out of classics to read; although I would quickly get my TBR under control.
My wife went for a new job that would require making a significant move. This has led me to spend a lot of time looking at my shelves, I mean, more so than usual. If we make this move there would be a serious need to cull my bookshelves. While I have toyed with this idea before, I never liked the idea of culling anything I have not read. I may not be interested in reading all the books at the moment but this could change. A major cull would force my hand. I want my shelves to be reflection of the books I am interested in reading and the ones that define my reading life. Eventually I hope to have a very small TBR pile but currently most of the books I own are unread.
I use to buy books frequently however my book buying habits have been through a considerable change. Currently my reading has been focused on the books I have received for my birthday or Christmas, like The Housekeeper and the Professor. However my time gazing at my shelves has reminded me of all the books I would love to revisit. I reread The Elegance of the Hedgehog as a result. It is hard to find the right balance between reading the unread and all the books I wish to dip back into; with a smaller TBR, this might be easier to manage. I am constantly being distracted by all the books I have and wish to read.
I keep checking the price on Matt McIntosh’s novel, theMystery.doc but it is still sitting at $45 Australian dollars. Part of me worries that this post-modern novel will never be published in paperback but do I have the patience to tackle a 1600 page book at the moment? Another book for my wishlist. I suspect that while reading Jacob’s Room is Full of Books I will find more books to add to my wishlist. It did inspire me to start writing monthly wrap ups again. I am actually trying to use her style of mixing my personal and reading life into one. However I plan to try and highlight my bookish thought process as well. I enjoyed the book but I preferred her other, Howard’s End is on the Landing. I am inspired to write this because of the book and I hope that it is just leading me back to writing more frequently. Also with a monthly post like this, the need to review everything I read will be eliminated. Let me know if you like this style.